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College of Arts & Sciences
McKissick Museum

Henry William Ravenel: Scientist and Collector

June 25, 2014 - October 4, 2014, 2nd floor lobby

Henry William Ravenel (1814-1887), one of the foremost botanists of the American Civil War era, graduated from South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) in 1832.   An eager student of natural history and botany, particularly fungi, Ravenel developed friendships, corresponded, and shared specimens with many of the greatest botanists of his day.   These relationships helped shape Ravenel’s herbarium as both regionally significant and remarkably cosmopolitan.  In addition, Ravenel’s publications, which continue to figure heavily in the systematic taxonomy of fungi, established his reputation as a contributor to botanical knowledge and as the world’s leading authority on American fungi.

Ravenel was a dedicated botanical collector amassing a summary of specimens totaling 11,000 species.  Today, the University of South Carolina is home to the last intact portion of Ravenel’s herbarium containing over 6,200 individual plant specimens along with his journals and correspondence.  This exhibit features just a few of the specimens Ravenel and his contemporaries collected.  Herbarium staff are in the process of remounting these specimens to make all of his work more accessible.  Because he bridged the transition in botanical research from gentlemen-amateurs to professional scientists, Ravenel continues to provide important insights into both the taxonomic study of fungi and the evolution of science.

Image: Henry William Ravenel, 1861, carte-de-visite by Quinby & Co., Charleston, Courtesy of South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia


Also please visit the A.C. Moore Herbarium's website for more information about the forthcoming symposium:

Plants and Planter: Henry William Ravenel and the Convergence of Science and Agriculture in the 19th-Century South



Wednesday, June 25, 2014 to Saturday, October 4, 2014